Building Resilience with Blue Parks: Science-Based Standards for Ocean Protection

Sarah Hameed, Marine Conservation Institute, Petaluma, CA, United States and Lance E Morgan, Marine Conservation Institute, Glen Ellen, CA, United States
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are effective conservation tools that can rebuild populations from exploitation, recover habitats from damage, and increase ecosystem resilience when designed well and managed effectively. However, the rich scientific literature on MPA effectiveness does not typically guide MPA design and implementation, leading to variable MPA effectiveness and poor ecosystem representation in MPAs globally. Nearly 12,000 implemented MPAs currently meet the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) definition for MPAs, yet only 2.2% of the ocean is highly protected with regulations that strictly regulate extraction ( Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, government signatories are committed to effectively protecting 10% of the ocean by 2020; however, it is clear that they need help to improve and accelerate MPA implementation. Marine Conservation Institute is tracking progress towards this target and evaluating larger scale efforts to create a global ocean refuge system with the goal of protecting 30% of all ocean ecosystems in a representative and biologically connected network by 2030. We present a recently launched initiative aimed at this goal, Blue Parks. Blue Parks criteria provides science-based standards for conservation effectiveness, and the award earned by MPAs that meet these standards incentivizes governments to implement and improve MPAs. Blue Parks criteria are based on research identifying effective design, management, regulations, and enforcement for MPAs; they provide the blueprints for new effective protected areas that will safeguard marine ecosystems and contribute to a resilient planet.